Aussie Prime Ministers in history

 
  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Richmond Vic
And good ol' Mal Fraser, what a rabid old Lefty he turned out to be eh!
"BrentonGolding"
He reminded me of Groucho Marx: "These are my principles. If you don't like them, I have others."

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  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Well said VG. JC was in my opinion our greatest PM. I don't agree with everything that he stood for which makes him even more admirable in my eyes. (not that I was around back then to have actually seen him in action)

With the possible exception of Chifley it has been pretty much all downhill from there. As a young ALP member at the time I liked Hawke but the more I read about him over the years the less I liked the man. I loved Keating for his wit and oratory skills but at the end of the day they are just all products of the party machines that have taken over politics.

And good ol' Mal Fraser, what a rabid old Lefty he turned out to be eh! Laughing
BrentonGolding
He reminded me of Groucho Marx: "These are my principles. If you don't like them, I have others."
Valvegear
Fraser was an odd mix of stuff but "life wasn't meant to be easy" sticks in the mind.

Howard, our then esteemed Treasurer was all excited about Thatcherism particularly banking deregulation but Fraser wouldn't have a bar of it. Our net (total) foreign liabilities were AU$2 billion at that point - imagine that!
  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Richmond Vic
Now for something completely different – Edward Gough Whitlam.

If Menzies was the luckiest PM, Whitlam would have to be the most charismatic. He was a towering figure and had that aura of “presence” about him.  He could have won in 1969 except for the Victorian branch which delivered him one more seat only. After finally forcing federal intervention into the Victorian branch ( and some into the NSW branch as well ) he won in 1972 by picking up eight seats to give the ALP 67 seats out of the (then) total of 125 in the House.

He won, certainly, but that was where the trouble started. From those 67 MP’s, only two had ever sat on the Government benches; Kim Beazley snr and Fred Daly and that was 23 years earlier.  It was like an expedition to the South Pole; “Well, here we are; what do we do now?” Nobody had any experience as a Minister, and certainly none with a very conservative senior public service led by people like Sir Arthur Tange ( also known as “Sir After Dark” because he was said to be constantly planning and scheming.)

Whitlam had a revolutionary program of change. Some was good, some impracticable, and some straight into the “too hard” basket. Some of the good were The Family Law Act, The Trade Practices Act, abolition of capital punishment, the Federal Court, censorship reform and, some would say the best, lifting of the restrictions on home brewing! Whitlam and his deputy, Lance Barnard, formed a two man cabinet and immediately leapt into action by ending conscription.

The country obviously liked some of what it saw because the ALP was returned in the premature election in 1974 after a double dissolution, triggered by a hostile Senate, and the subsequent Joint Sitting.

Soon after, the wheels began to fall off. There is no doubt that the economy went downhill with inflation seriously out of control and the oil crisis which seemed to catch every country, with the possible exception of Japan, by surprise. The incompetence of some Ministers didn’t help. Whitlam sacked both Jim Cairns and Rex Connor for misleading the House. (Such an action these days would be considered extraordinary but ministerial responsibility didn’t really die out until the Howard era, of which, more later). Connor's sacking was because his permission to source loan money had been withdrawn but he kept on chasing and the amazing Mr Khemlani appeared on the scene. It was a boneheaded idea at the best of times.

Whitlam was too slow on many fronts. He failed to pull his own Ministers into line, he did not accept advice from Treasury among other things, and then tried to gain control of the Senate by offering DLP Senator Vince Gair the post of Ambassador to Ireland. He hoped that this extra Senate vacancy might help the ALP get to one more senator it needed in the chamber. It was an extraordinary plan, it was appallingly badly executed and was brilliantly foiled by Queensland Premier Bjelke-Petersen.

The Liberal Party played a master stroke by electing Malcolm Fraser as Leader and he kept the heat on relentlessly, again with the aid of a hostile Senate and a phalanx of ruthless and battle-hardened conservative State Premiers.  

It all added up, and Fraser had what he had previously referred to as “reprehensible circumstances”.  The opposition senators did not refuse supply; they simply kept deferring the vote on it and a monetary crisis was approaching rapidly.  Whitlam wanted to call a half-senate election and went to the Governor General with this plan, armed with his unswerving belief that the Governor General had to act on the advice of his Ministers.

The rest is history, and 11 November 1975 saw the end of the Whitlam dream.
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

Now for something completely different – Edward Gough Whitlam.

If Menzies was the luckiest PM, Whitlam would have to be the most charismatic. He was a towering figure and had that aura of “presence” about him.  …
Valvegear
A rather nice way of describing a personality cult.

I don't know whether that was deliberate on his part or created by his supporters/believers, I'll try not to assign motives to him now he's unable to defend his legacy - unlike a certain person on this forum with a creepy fetish for buggering Hawke after he's dead.

Whitlam wanted to call a half-senate election and went to the Governor General with this plan, armed with his unswerving belief that the Governor General had to act on the advice of his Ministers.
Valvegear
But he didn't take into account what the GG would do in the face of being given advice that was false/flawed. Perhaps this was, like the Loans Affair, a symptom of Whitlam being surrounded by true believers who couldn't correct him when he was wrong?

The earliest date for a half-Senate election called on 11 November would have been 29 November (the first Saturday after the minimum 7 days from issuing the writs to close of nominations and the minimum 7 days from nominations to the election, under the version of the Commonwealth Electoral Act in force at the time) which was too late to get the new senators from the territories seated in time for them to pass an appropriations bill before supply ran out on 30 November.

At best, Kerr granting the half-Senate election may have delayed the tougher decision (to break the deadlock and dissolve the Parliament) by a week or so. At worst, it would have led to additional instability and turned a political crisis into a genuine constitutional crisis*.

Even if the half-Senate option had been taken earlier when it was available, it's reasonable to expect that the results in the territories (the only elected senators who would take their seats immediately) would have been 2 ALP and 2 Coalition as they were a few weeks later - and in every single time the territories have voted in senators since then, courtesy of the Single Transferable Vote system. Whitlam needed to gain numbers in the Senate, not just add a couple of seats to each side while preserving the margin.


* I don't recognise The Dismissal as a constitutional crisis, because the end result was largely that the constitution worked (the deadlock was broken and the political future promptly handed over for the people to decide at the ballot box) as designed and only needed a few tweaks afterwards. Additionally, it set a powerful precedent to discourage sailing that close to the wind in the future.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
...

The rest is history, and 11 November 1975 saw the end of the Whitlam dream.
Valvegear
A rather nice way of describing a personality cult. I don't know whether that was deliberate on his part or created by his supporters/believers, I'll try not to assign motives to him now he's unable to defend his legacy - unlike a certain person on this forum with a creepy fetish for buggering Hawke after he's dead.
justapassenger
I have every right to call out the liar Hawke for what he was - because the Labor Party refuses to stop venerating that Thatcherite globalist is the reason why they can't move forward.

Whitlam should have called a House of Representatives vote of confidence on the fateful day - instead he chose to go to lunch.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
...

The Liberal Party played a master stroke by electing Malcolm Fraser as Leader and he kept the heat on relentlessly, again with the aid of a hostile Senate and a phalanx of ruthless and battle-hardened conservative State Premiers.  

...
Valvegear
You forgot to mention the fact that Fraser was meeting the Kerr in the weeks before the dismissal and apparently telling him what a great guy he'd be remembered as if he sacked the Whitlam government.
  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Richmond Vic
You forgot to mention the fact that Fraser was meeting the Kerr in the weeks before the dismissal and apparently telling him what a great guy he'd be remembered as if he sacked the Whitlam government.
"don-dunstan"
I take your point, but I didn't forget it; I deliberately left it out because I think that (a) it belongs in a discussion of Fraser and (b) anyone interested in Australian politics knows what happened anyway.

Whitlam should have called a House of Representatives vote of confidence on the fateful day - instead he chose to go to lunch.
"don_dunstan"
Exactly; another example of an instance where he didn't think clearly or quickly. As a QC, he should have been faster to realise the legal avenue available. He had the numbers in the House; he could have forced a vote of No Confidence in the caretaker government and despatched this to the G-G immediately. Instead, he did nothing except go to lunch and the opportunity was lost. Kerr dissolved the Parliament and it was too late.

But he didn't take into account what the GG would do in the face of being given advice that was false/flawed. Perhaps this was, like the Loans Affair, a symptom of Whitlam being surrounded by true believers who couldn't correct him when he was wrong?
"justapassenger"
I think that is a pretty fair comment.

I don't recognise The Dismissal as a constitutional crisis, because the end result was largely that the constitution worked (the deadlock was broken and the political future promptly handed over for the people to decide at the ballot box) as designed and only needed a few tweaks afterwards. Additionally, it set a powerful precedent to discourage sailing that close to the wind in the future.
"justapassenger"
That is all quite correct. The thing we don't know, and I'd like to know, is whether Kerr requested Fraser to have the Senate actually vote on Supply instead of continuing to defer the vote. I know Kerr couldn't force such a request, but it's just an idea I had. We do know that there were Coalition senators who were wavering before the 11th and Senator Reg Withers (aka The Toecutter) was doing his utmost to keep them in line because he knew what Fraser was up to.
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

Whitlam should have called a House of Representatives vote of confidence on the fateful day - instead he chose to go to lunch.
Exactly; another example of an instance where he didn't think clearly or quickly. As a QC, he should have been faster to realise the legal avenue available. He had the numbers in the House; he could have forced a vote of No Confidence in the caretaker government and despatched this to the G-G immediately. Instead, he did nothing except go to lunch and the opportunity was lost. Kerr dissolved the Parliament and it was too late.
Valvegear
It was probably fortunate at the time that Whitlam made that blunder, in that it cleared the way for the political crisis to get resolved - by dealing with the immediate supply problem and then putting the question of what would happen next back to the people at a fresh election - instead of allowing it to move closer to becoming an actual constitutional crisis.

The long term impact on Australia had that happened could have been catastrophic. If it developed into a real constitutional crisis then one of the results would have been that the referenda of 1977 would have included a constitutional amendment creating a clearer mechanism for resolving a deadlock. Instead of having a cautionary Don't Strap Yourself To The Bomb Or Things Will Get Ugly precedent, there would have been an answer for what would happen if you did strap yourself to the bomb which would in turn make it worth considering whether those consequences might be worth accepting.

Look at the USA with its system of partial government shutdowns that take place when the budget expires without being extended/replaced, and the way that they are so accepted that the government departments all have established procedures on how to determine which operations are essential and which are not. Do we really want that sort of thing here?

I have my own ideas on a suitable system for the GG breaking a deadlock which threatened supply - but I'm 100% certain that they wouldn't get through parliament!

But he didn't take into account what the GG would do in the face of being given advice that was false/flawed. Perhaps this was, like the Loans Affair, a symptom of Whitlam being surrounded by true believers who couldn't correct him when he was wrong?
justapassenger
I think that is a pretty fair comment.
Valvegear
And just to be clear, I'm not intending that as any comment on Whitlam's character, but rather an observation on the fact that a lot of people did view him as a messiah.

Part of good leadership - in any sphere, not just politics - is actively working to ensure other team members are empowered to contribute well and not feel too intimidated to speak up.

This is something the ALP will need to look out for when they do eventually win a federal election. They will have been in opposition for 8 years and 5-8 months if the next federal election happens on schedule in the first half of 2022, and staring down the barrel at a 10+ year period if they lose that one.

The thing we don't know, and I'd like to know, is whether Kerr requested Fraser to have the Senate actually vote on Supply instead of continuing to defer the vote. I know Kerr couldn't force such a request, but it's just an idea I had. We do know that there were Coalition senators who were wavering before the 11th and Senator Reg Withers (aka The Toecutter) was doing his utmost to keep them in line because he knew what Fraser was up to.
Valvegear
An interesting suggestion.

As you point out, that would have been non-binding advice from the GG. I'm not sure that advice was what either Whitlam or Fraser were interested in at the time.
  Carnot Minister for Railways

The people voted after the dismissal and Fraser won by a landslide - end of story.  Whitlam lost the plot and was deservedly sacked beforehand.

I have a lot of admiration for Johnny Howard, but he was much better in the early part of his Prime Ministership (gun control, some decent rail infrastructure investment, GST etc), than the latter part (i.e. Iraq War, Work Choices debacles).
  apw5910 Deputy Commissioner

Location: Location: Location.
I think any Kerr/Fraser correspondence (if it exists) would be a lot more interesting than Betty telling Kerr/Australia to grow up and resolve it them-selves. Couched of course in that incredibly polite bland language HM always uses to avoid any sniff of controversy.

I doubt anything new will come out of these letters.
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

The people voted after the dismissal …
Carnot
And that's the most important bit. Government not working --> put it back to the people.

It should have been done a month earlier so the election could be held and the new Parliament constituted in time to pass the appropriations bills before 30 November without having to install Fraser as caretaker PM.

Preventing the country from getting within six weeks of shutting down would have been a powerful precedent, and one that probably would have achieved the double majority if a proposal to write it into the Constitution for the future was put to the people at the post-crisis referenda of 1977.
  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Richmond Vic
I have to say that the dismissal was the greatest Australian political upheaval that I ever saw. It put the great Labor split of the 50's back down the list.
  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Richmond Vic
Chronologically next: Mr Fraser.

Malcolm Fraser and Gough Whitlam had two things in common.

Both were very tall, and each used his second given name (otherwise we would be hearing of John Fraser and Edward Whitlam.) It is probably fair to say that, for decades before both had retired from Parliament, these were the only similarities.

Perhaps one could view Fraser as the archetypal Conservative politician. He was born into wealth, and raised through an isolated  childhood on his father’s grazing property in western Victoria. He was subsequently sent to Melbourne Grammar School; one the two prominent establishment schools suitable for Liberal politicians and operatives, the other being Scotch College. He then studied at Magdalen College, Oxford, without any great distinction, to the point where one of his tutors remembered him as, “ a colonial drongo.”

He was elected to the Division of Wannon in 1956, and when he entered Parliament at the age of 26, he had never had a job. Ignored by Menzies, he languished on the back bench until Holt plucked him from obscurity and made him Minister for the Army. It was something, but not enough for a man as ambitious as Fraser, and he was worried that rivals from his own generation such as Billy Snedden, Peter Howson and Don Chipp and newcomers like Andrew Peacock and Philip Lynch, might steal a march on him.

Fraser, in a sign of things to come, rewarded Holt’s patronage by becoming one of the leading conspirators in the move to replace him with Gorton. Holt drowned before the challenge could occur, but Gorton still rewarded Fraser by making him Minister for Education. Finally, Gorton and Fraser fell out over a number of issues and Fraser resigned from the Cabinet, and this ultimately led to the downfall of Gorton and his replacement by McMahon. It was not until 1975 that, under the then Leader of the Opposition, Billy Snedden, Fraser was instrumental in a coup which installed him as the new Leader. It had taken twenty years, but he now had power.

The Whitlam government was now in such disarray that Fraser could have waited for the Prime Minister’s job to fall into his hands at the next scheduled election, but impatience got the better of him. As history shows, he colluded with Sir John Kerr, and the top job was his. He won the 1977 election with a thumping majority and presided over a recovery but not any reconciliation. He alienated some of the more radical right by supporting Aboriginal Land Rights, taking on the racist regimes of South Africa and Southern Rhodesia (as it was then), allowed Vietnamese refugees in, and forced the Queensland government to stop sand mining on Fraser Island.

He was tough on his ministers, sacking without fear or favour, the leading example of which was Senator Reg Withers who had held the opposition senators together in 1975, thus delivering Fraser the numbers to overthrow Whitlam.

Finally he lost in 1983, and there was a brilliant cartoon by Ron Tandberg which summed it up nicely. Bill Hayden was Labor Leader, and Fraser refused to give anything away about the date for the upcoming election, saying that he wanted to “catch Hayden with his pants down.” The cartoon’s first section showed Fraser calling “Caught you with your pants down, Bill”, and a voice from out of sight saying, “It’s Bob!” The second drawing, of course has a sheepish Fraser with trousers around his ankles.

By 2003, the Liberals under Howard regarded the Fraser years as wasted and even traitorous. This was compounded by Fraser’s frequent attacks on Howard’s policies, such as his treatment of refugees, and his involvement in the invasion of Iraq. The final and unforgivable sin was that he frequently made common cause against the Coalition with his former antagonist, Gough Whitlam.

Would the real Malcolm Fraser please stand up?
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
You forgot to mention the fact that Fraser was meeting the Kerr in the weeks before the dismissal and apparently telling him what a great guy he'd be remembered as if he sacked the Whitlam government.
I take your point, but I didn't forget it; I deliberately left it out because I think that (a) it belongs in a discussion of Fraser and (b) anyone interested in Australian politics knows what happened anyway.
Valvegear
Well I think its relevant, it probably wouldn't have even happened if Fraser hadn't been grooming Kerr and putting ideas into his head.

I guess the letters that are being released between Liz and Kerr may help put some light on that situation after all these years?
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Now for something completely different – Edward Gough Whitlam.

If Menzies was the luckiest PM, Whitlam would have to be the most charismatic. He was a towering figure and had that aura of “presence” about him.  He could have won in 1969 except for the Victorian branch which delivered him one more seat only. After finally forcing federal intervention into the Victorian branch ( and some into the NSW branch as well ) he won in 1972 by picking up eight seats to give the ALP 67 seats out of the (then) total of 125 in the House.

...
Valvegear
Hawkie would probably argue the point about his charisma being greater!

The Liberals had been in office for over 20 years by then, it was high time they went.
Soon after, the wheels began to fall off. There is no doubt that the economy went downhill with inflation seriously out of control and the oil crisis which seemed to catch every country, with the possible exception of Japan, by surprise. The incompetence of some Ministers didn’t help. Whitlam sacked both Jim Cairns and Rex Connor for misleading the House. (Such an action these days would be considered extraordinary but ministerial responsibility didn’t really die out until the Howard era, of which, more later). Connor's sacking was because his permission to source loan money had been withdrawn but he kept on chasing and the amazing Mr Khemlani appeared on the scene. It was a boneheaded idea at the best of times.
Valvegear
A combination of really bad luck, trying to change too much too quickly and spending way too much money too fast which was freaking out even the most ardent supporters (probably rightly so). That combined with huge amounts of turmoil internationally due to the oil crisis and the seventies phenomenon of 'stagflation' also didn't help - and then the Khemlani affair made that public suspicion even worse.

I really don't buy any of those Whitlam/CIA conspiracies; I don't think there was any compelling reason for the American secret intelligence to get involved in Aussie political affairs as there wasn't any threat to ANZUS or anything like that. I do point the finger at Fraser's grooming of the old lush Kerr as he was really impatient to get into office and Kerr was a bit of an ego maniac too and thought he'd be earning his place in history by saving Australia from the ravages of the socialist agenda. Whitlam's choice of Kerr for a Governor General was obviously an appalling error of judgement too.
The Liberal Party played a master stroke by electing Malcolm Fraser as Leader and he kept the heat on relentlessly, again with the aid of a hostile Senate and a phalanx of ruthless and battle-hardened conservative State Premiers. It all added up, and Fraser had what he had previously referred to as “reprehensible circumstances”. The opposition senators did not refuse supply; they simply kept deferring the vote on it and a monetary crisis was approaching rapidly. Whitlam wanted to call a half-senate election and went to the Governor General with this plan, armed with his unswerving belief that the Governor General had to act on the advice of his Ministers. The rest is history, and 11 November 1975 saw the end of the Whitlam dream.
Valvegear
As someone else already pointed out Whitlam was soundly defeated at the subsequent election - inflation had exploded under Whitlam's rule for various reasons and there were a lot of people suffering from that. I think by then a lot of traditional Labor people were also feeling left behind by the extremely rapid pace of change and the economic problems then besetting Australia so Fraser probably should have just waited his turn rather than be remembered for that rat act of organising Whitlam's sacking.
  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Richmond Vic
I really don't buy any of those Whitlam/CIA conspiracies; I don't think there was any compelling reason for the American secret intelligence to get involved in Aussie political affairs as there wasn't any threat to ANZUS or anything like that.
"don-dunstan"
Quite right. The CIA involvement idea is up there with the one about Holt's abduction by a Chinese submarine.

I do point the finger at Fraser's grooming of the old lush Kerr as he was really impatient to get into office and Kerr was a bit of an ego maniac too and thought he'd be earning his place in history by saving Australia from the ravages of the socialist agenda. Whitlam's choice of Kerr for a Governor General was obviously an appalling error of judgement too.
"don-dunstan"
Kerr was a very vain man, and is on the record as making speeches overseas about the importance of the Governor General's role ( at least, his version of it). As you say, Fraser groomed this and scratched Kerr's back about the reserve powers and his importance. Whitlam stuck stubbornly to his dictum that the GG must act on the advice of his ministers, and this got right up Kerr's nose. The choice of Kerr will go down as Whitlam's prize blunder.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Quite right. The CIA involvement idea is up there with the one about Holt's abduction by a Chinese submarine.
Valvegear
Its a terrible shame that Labor's first actual foray into Commonwealth majority were marked by the turmoil and partisan politics.
Its also kinda strange in retrospect that Joh Bjelke-Petersen had involvement with getting rid of Whitlam by breaking with tradition and putting an ostensibly hostile senator into that casual vacancy (Albert Field) and then Fraser's refusal to allocate a pair while the legal challenge went on (also breaking with an unspoken tradition) apparently sealed Whitlam's fate with the hostile Senate - well it steered his government into eventual dismissal anyway.
Kerr was a very vain man, and is on the record as making speeches overseas about the importance of the Governor General's role ( at least, his version of it). As you say, Fraser groomed this and scratched Kerr's back about the reserve powers and his importance. Whitlam stuck stubbornly to his dictum that the GG must act on the advice of his ministers, and this got right up Kerr's nose. The choice of Kerr will go down as Whitlam's prize blunder.
Valvegear
It's a shame Fraser gets overwhelming remembered for this - my old Labor Party stalwart friends actually fondly remembered him when he passed away in 2015 and said things had at least been lovely and stable under his leadership for a long stretch. He was all for many of the social initiatives that Whitlam had started but also maintained a Tory-like paternal idea of working class people unlike his Treasurer Howard who was all for implementing the radical new rage of Thatcherism in Australia.
  DirtyBallast Chief Commissioner

Location: I was here first. You're only visiting.
Chronologically next: Mr Fraser.
Valvegear
Pre-PM, he was education minister for a while and was responsible for entrenching the rot of over-generous funding of private schools. As a nation we are still suffering from this ideology.

Balancing that slightly was his humanitarian streak.
  Radioman Chief Train Controller

Hello All,

the election of the Whitlam Government was a breath of fresh air. The Coalition had got stale and lazy. The Country Party under Anthony, Nixon and Sinclair was adrift when compared to Black Jack McEwan, and the Liberals allowed protectionism to steadily increase without regard to the possible future downsides.

The global economy was changing, and Australia needed to adapt, which we did, unlike New Zealand which gradually drifted backwards, and as a result, New Zealand suffered a more dramatic and long lasting downturn when reform of the old over protectionist model became the only option.

Menzies was, in practice , a believer in the Mixed Economy where utilities were Government owned, and some industries had major Government players, to ensure that Australia had access to essential supplies if needed.

Hence the reason for ANL / Australian National Line, a direct result of foreign shipping companies loosing interest in the Australian market whilst other markets delivered more profit. As a result Australia was severely hampered in exporting product, and likewise constrained on imports. ANL helped change that

But some opportunities were missed, like Fokker's offer for Australia to directly participate in the Friendship aeroplane Project. With the benefit of hindsight, that would have been a profitable adjunct to our aeroplane manufacturing base, however, with the large surplus of Douglas C47 Skytrain / Dakota / DC3 cargo planes available for sale, the Fokker Friendship appeared to be a good way to potentially loose massive amounts of cash. And you could still buy airworthy Dakotas in the early 1970s, 30 years later ! Actually, they have proven to be almost indestructible, never suffering major fatigue failures due to age, engine spares were widely available into the 1990s; which is amazing for a 1938 designed aeroplane !

I also think that the establishment of the Australian Arts Council was, and remains, a great achievement, as it helped put an end to the Australian Cringe, where we valued the foreign over the local, instead of enjoying both. That, in my view, is the Whitlam Government's great achievement, encouraging a wider outlook, seeing the world from Australia's perspective, not via the prism of a fading Empire. It subsequently emerged that Fraser had a similar outlook !

Regards, Echidna
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
...

Menzies was, in practice , a believer in the Mixed Economy where utilities were Government owned, and some industries had major Government players, to ensure that Australia had access to essential supplies if needed.

...
Radioman
Menzies basically took off from where Chifley had left it with developing industry and protectionism but then the thinking at the time was that they didn't want to let a situation like the Great Depression emerge again where there was chronic under-utilisation of the workforce and many people were excluded from the economy. Another reason to pursue a policy of full employment at that time was to head off any problems potentially caused by masses of unemployed people starting to organise against the government, which was a real danger in the mid-1930's. Both sides agreed that they didn't want a post-war repeat of the Depression but differed on how they were going to achieve it.

In the background was the danger of expansionist communism lurking and as Valvegear pointed out this was expertly played by Menzies to break the Labor leadership on more than one occasion.

The perceived communist threat and the supposed existence of sympathisers lurking within the Labor ranks was leverage for Menzies to break apart the opposition by convincing the Catholic rump of the Labor Party to break off from those godless communists and form their own political party - the DLP. And then only two years after that the Petrov Affair which proved that the Soviet Union was indeed using spies in Australia to influence and collect intelligence. Opposition Leader HV Evatt was convinced that Menzies had orchestrated the whole defection by himself in order to discredit the Labor Party and even took his extraordinary allegations to the subsequent Royal Commission into the whole affair; unfortunately for him this played right into Menzies hands and eventually the commissioners refused to hear any more evidence from him on the 'conspiracy'. He succeeded only in making himself look paranoid and isolated from his own party and his leadership was permanently tainted - he stepped down in 1960.

As Valvegear said, a really fortunate confluence of events helped keep Menzies in power but it was also the constant divisions within Labor and the clever tactical manoeuvres from the cunning Liberals that ensured the ALP would spend 24 whole years in opposition.
  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Richmond Vic
Following Fraser of course was (drum roll) the world’s greatest “mate”. . . Robert James Lee Hawke, aka The Silver Bodgie.

Where on earth does one start? His background is pretty well known – from skulling a yard of beer at Oxford in record time, to President of the ACTU, and everything in between. The ACTU was where he first achieved fame. Deserved or not, he gained the accolade of coming in on bitter disputes, and brokering a resolution. Coupled with that, he had one of the best public personas that the country had seen in years. Approachable, friendly and the dinkum Aussie.

He was, of course, a political animal and carried a good deal of clout within the ALP. It was at the 1979 ALP Federal Conference in Adelaide that Hawke first clashed openly with Hayden, whom he believed had broken a deal on industry policy. It was a classic demonstration of the volatility of Hawke in his drinking days on occasions when he was under strain and playing it out right in the spotlight. He was restrained from giving Hayden a spray on the conference floor,  but later that evening he went to eat and found some journalists and ALP men, and told them that they were “bloody gutless”.  Subsequently, he gave his celebrated description of Hayden: “As far as I’m concerned, Hayden is dead”, followed later by, “. . . as far as Bill Hayden and I are concerned, it’s finished . . . he is a lying **** with a limited future.”

When the chance occurred to stand for the Division of Wills in 1980, he was a shoo-in; no other ALP aspirant had a cat in hell’s chance of preselection.  There occurred a reconciliation of sorts with Hayden to whom he said, “ I will work my guts out in this campaign to get you elected as prime minister . . . it would be dishonest of me if I didn’t say that the embers of Adelaide remain in my mind but I want you to know I can put this away and work for the party and your success.”

The election itself was a narrow win for the coalition. Hawke duly won Wills, and went straight into the shadow cabinet, where Bill Hayden made him Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations. It was in 1982 that Hawke was ready for his first challenge to Hayden.  Hayden narrowly won the vote, but with an election looming in 1983, Labor was moving away from Hayden towards the proven popularity of Hawke. Eventually, Hayden resigned and made his famous remark that,  “ . . .a drover’s dog could lead the ALP to victory. ”

Then, it happened; Hawke was PM.  He quickly formed a close working relationship with Paul Keating which was to serve both of them well for some years. Howard had become Liberal Party Leader in 1985, and both Hawke and Keating were ruthless in keeping the pressure on him. By the time Labor had won the 1987 election, Keating was becoming very impatient to replace Hawke. However, the two were still united in the 1990 election campaign in which they defeated Andrew Peacock who had replaced Howard as opposition leader.

Through 1991, Keating stepped up the pressure on Hawke whom he finally defeated in a Caucus ballot in December of that year.

There is a tremendous amount that has been said and written about Hawke and, naturally, many and varied opinions which would be just too much for this particular post. I guess that a personal note is a way to finish. At one point of Hawke’s prime ministership, my then wife had been appointed Manager of a new Community Health Centre in Hawke’s electorate of Wills. Hawke was performing the official opening, and I went along and was introduced to him. His greeting was, “Good to meet you, mate.” Some judicious eavesdropping followed, and I concluded that all of the several dozen men present seemed to be named, “Mate”.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Good post, Valvegear.

The ALP leadership team had an excellent run in the mid-to-late eighties partly because of the really toxic Liberal Party rivalry between Andrew Peacock and John Howard but also because the economy was good and at that stage booming due in part to relaxed credit. That all started to go pear-shaped in 1988 with the stock market and then later on multiple business failures threatening the banking system. By 1990 unemployment was increasing and Hawke looked flat-footed and stale in response; he'd also made some unfortunate gaffes - particularly memorable was his 1987 statement that "By 1990, no child will live in poverty" which he immediately back-tracked to qualify with "there should be no reason why any child should be living in poverty" but by then the damage was done.

Hawkie was looking tired by the time of the 1990 election campaign and had an unfortunate public run-in on the campaign trail with an elderly gent in Whyalla (SA) who heckled him with "You make more money in a week than I make all year!" to which a flustered Hawke replied "I don't know what you're talking about you silly old bugger". The media played that sound grab over and over again because it was unusual to see the normally rock-solid public composure of the man fall away.

I'd add that the "Kirribilli Agreement" thrashed out between Hawke and Keating in 1988 was an interesting back-story that only came out later on: Hawke agreed in a secret meeting (witnessed by Sir Peter Ables and Bill Kelty) that he would hand over the leadership to his heir apparent if he won the election scheduled for 1990 but when he later won (with a narrow majority) he showed no signs of handing over to Keating. Ultimately Keating made his infamous "Placido Domingo" speech to the National Press Club in December 1990 making a veiled swipe at Hawke's leadership and the situation began to degenerate into open warfare between the two culminating in the first Keating challenge in June 1991.

It was a shame that Hawke - like Margaret Thatcher - had to be blasted out of the top job by his own party, narrowly defeated by Keating at the second challenge for his leadership in December of that year but then I suppose being in the big chair is quite addictive...
  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Richmond Vic
This might be a good time to go back and fill in the gap between Menzies and Whitlam. One could well call this a Motley Crew, basically because I don’t think any one of the PM’s of that period is significant enough to have  his own page.

Harold Holt is first. Here is a man who showed no signs of higher ambition for the entire time that he served under Menzies, and this suited Menzies perfectly. Menzies had seen off the obvious potential challengers and Holt was the ideal lieutenant. Menzies finally retired in 1966 and Holt became PM. In that same year, he visited the USA and made what many considered a grovelling speech which included a ringing endorsement of Australia’s presence in Vietnam.  He ended his speech to President Lyndon Johnson among others, with words which haunted him for years, “ . . . you have an admiring friend, a staunch friend that will be all the way with LBJ.” Johnson repaid him by visiting just prior to the 1966 election and campaigning unashamedly for Holt’s re-election, despite the convention that you don’t meddle in the politics of another country. It all ended on 17 December 1967 when Holt visited Cheviot Beach at Portsea with his current mistress, Marjorie Gillespie, and being a womaniser, decided to show off, swam out in a heavy sea and vanished, later presumed drowned.

John McEwen of the Country Party briefly served as the next Prime Minister, basically because he had told the Liberals that they were on their own if they made Billy McMahon Prime Minister. His reign was short as John Gorton was elected Liberal Leader and resigned from the Senate to take up a seat in the House.

Gorton was a knockabout sort of bloke which endeared him to a lot of people who didn’t like “serious” leaders.  He had served well in the RAAF and had recovered from war injuries. By the end of 1968, Gorton’s casual behaviour was starting to alarm some of his colleagues.  In late October, President Johnson had informed Gorton that highly secret negotiations were under way, and that he hoped to be able to announce the cessation of the bombing of Hanoi before the Presidential Election in early November. Gorton returned to Parliament House later that night after a theatre party and a certain amount of top shelf alcohol. He held an impromptu press conference with a few journalists who were still in the building and revealed Johnson’s secret. Johnson was understandably livid and made it known.  Gorton’s ways didn’t change and, as he was about to leave on another trip to the USA, Senator Vince Gair made the casual Aussie farewell of “Behave yourself!”   Gorton turned on him and said, “John Grey Gorton will bloody well behave exactly as John Grey Gorton bloody well wants to behave.” “Personally, I couldn’t care less if John Grey Gorton jumps into the Yarra and drowns himself,” said Gair, “but John Grey Gorton is Prime Minister of Australia and I do care how he conducts himself.”

Gorton, through a no-confidence motion in the party room, actually voted himself out of office, and Billy McMahon finally made it into The Lodge. He had been plotting actively for years, undermining Gorton, counting numbers and making promises, and was described by Whitlam as “Tiberius with a telephone.”
He made numerous changes to the ministry, and one that came back to bite him was removing Minister for the Navy, Jim Killen, from that position and sending him to the back bench. On one subsequent occasion, McMahon was holding forth at the despatch box and declared dramatically, “I am my own worst enemy!” Came the rich baritone voice of Killen, “Not while I’m alive.”  McMahon basically failed to impress anybody, and finally lost any press support when Sir Frank Packer sold the Daily Telegraph to Rupert Murdoch. He was also mercilessly lampooned in a couple of  local newspapers which always referred to him as, “ the Prim Monster, Mr McMoan.” Eventually, the seemingly inevitable happened, and the change of government saw the end of Billy.
  Gayspie Deputy Commissioner

Location: Adelaide, SA
What could have happened if the whitlam dismissal turned into an actual constitutional crisis? What would have the effects been on our nation if that occured?
  Gayspie Deputy Commissioner

Location: Adelaide, SA
What could have happened if the whitlam dissmissal turned into a fully blown constitutional crisis? What would have the effects of this been on Australia?

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